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The Best Hikes in John Muir Wilderness

241 Triplog Reviews in the John Muir Wilderness
Most recent of 52 deeper Triplog Reviews
18 mi • 6,462 ft aeg
Three of us did this incredible hike - Brian W, Jim H, and myself. Brian and I started around 5:40 AM and Jim started a bit later than us but caught up about an hour before iceberg lake. We ALL made it to the top of Whitney but we almost didn't make it. Wow, it was amazing, a bit crazy & at times dangerous. We took the mountaineer's route which I do not recommend because after getting to iceberg lake (elevation ~ 12,600 feet) there's a hike up to a notch which involved loose gravel and a VERY steep climb which was about 1 mile long and elevation gain of something like 1,500 feet in that single mile. About 2/3 of the way up, there was a hail storm. I put on my rain jacket and because of the steep angle it was impossible not to step on it as I was doing this very steep climb and within a few minutes my rain jacket was torn apart and flapping in the wind. At the top of the notch we got cover and waited for the hailstorm to stop. Then, there was a technical 400 foot climb to the summit, which took us about 45 minutes. The hail stopped and started again a few times during the final ascent. None of us experienced any headaches or elevation sickness despite the storm and difficult conditions at the top. I had a knit hat which helped keep me from shivering. Brian and Jim were shivering at the top which dropped as low as 40 F that day, around 5:30 pm. Because of the hail, we went into the stone shelter and waited there for at least 1 - 1.5 hours. We realized that the hail would not end therefore we decided that we were going to leave there at 5:30 pm regardless of weather conditions.

Around 5:30 pm, we left the stone house and it was still hailing pretty hard. Hail was "pea sized" and sometimes larger. Before leaving, we signed the log, paused for 2 minutes to get a few quick photos up there and took off. There was an inch of "ice pellets" on the ground which looked just like snow. From this point we had 11 miles of good trail to get to the bottom. The top 3 miles was covered in snow but it was relatively easy to follow the trail down. After 3 miles we got out of the snow zone and the path was clear of any snow. We eventually got to the famous 99 switchbacks and went down. We counted all switchbacks and there really was 99. Then we were at Consultation lake and from this point we had 6.5 miles left to get to the bottom. We kept going, taking only short breaks, once or twice to filter spring water when we were low. We finally got to the Whitney Portal trailhead at 1:19 AM !! It was such a long and tiring day but we all made it safe. My phone battery was dead 3 minutes after I reached the peak but I was able to get some nice pics and videos all the way up. One of our friends, Brian, still had a working camera. I regret not taking my camera and relying on just the smart phone. A smart phone is quite dumb when it's out of battery!! Anyway, Brian was able to get photos of all of us at the peak and several other photos and videos after summiting. It was an adventure I'll never forget!! If we do it again, we would probably just use the MAIN trail, even though it would be 22 miles. Our route up and down was probably around 18 miles. I exported our GPS track from Strava and Hike measured our AEG at 6,462 and route up at 6.99 miles.

05:30a parked the car (8,333 feet elevation)
05:35a started hiking (8,333 feet elevation)
05:59a reached 1 mile in distance (8,708 feet elevation, previous mile in 24 minutes)
06:00a switched to the Mountaineer's route (8,723 feet elevation and 1.03 miles)
06:45a reached 2 miles (9,682 feet elevation, previous mile in 46 minutes)
07:32a reached Lower Boy scout lake (10,344 feet elevation). This was at 2.6 miles.
08:06a reached 3 miles (10,554 feet elevation, previous mile in 1 hr 21 minutes)
08:45a got a little off track but was able to see Thor falls up close (11,121 feet elevation, 3.44 miles)
09:16a reached the main section of the trail and met up with Jim (11,211 feet elevation, 3.82 miles)
09:29a reached Upper Boy Scout lake (11,313 feet elevation, 3.94 miles)
09:33a reached 4 miles (11,381 feet elevation, previous mile in 1 hr 27 minutes)
10:33a reached 5 miles (12,407 feet elevation, previous mile in 1 hr)
11:19a reached Iceberg Lake (12,650 feet elevation, 5.41 miles). took a long break.
11:48a left Iceberg Lake, heading up to notch (12,797 feet elevation, 5.51 miles)
12:43p reached 6 miles (13,474 feet elevation, previous 1/2 mile in 55 minutes!)
01:10p ** HAIL STORM STARTED at this point **
02:08p reached notch (14,135 feet elevation, 6.49 miles). Took 2 hr 20 minutes to get to notch during hailstorm!! Took a break, tried to get shelter during hailstorm.
02:38p started final 400' rock climb (14,158 feet elevation, 6.57 miles)
03:15p reached summit of Mt Whitney! (14,505 feet elevation, 6.99 miles). Hail was still falling during this time. We got shelter in the stone house and waited.
05:30p left summit even though hail was still coming down. Needed to get to safety regardless of weather.
(phone was dead so could not track GPS/progress)
01:19a finally made it to Whitney Portal!
16 mi • 6,300 ft aeg
Back again for the beast. Been over 11 years since my last time, and almost 14 years since I did this with no snow/winter conditions. Mike got the permit, and I simply had to go. It was Brian's idea, so it was the three of us.

Everyone from our hiking party liked the idea of going up the Mountaineers Route and down the Main Trail. We thought that it would make things more interesting and because the mileage was less we would enjoy it more. I can safely say that none of us feel that way now. About a hundred feet below the notch it started to hail off and on and it continued to do so turning to snow over the next 3 hours. The final 400 is nowhere you want to be in those conditions. Cold, high altitude, wet conditions, slick rock, and fear are something which stays with you. The last 2+ hours were like some of the worst conditions I have experienced on Humphrey in a storm, but with very high altitude and scrambling.

Even before this, I had pretty much thought this was the last time I would ever do this route just because as I'm getting older it's not as much fun. We can blame altitude, but also it's damn steep! Maybe someday many years from now I'll return and hike Whitney using the trail both ways so that I can enjoy a beautiful summit day, but that's probably going to be many many years. If I ever do.

There's an abundance of water despite the drought. Either I had completely forgotten what this area is like in the summer, or because I'm here earlier in the summer water is seeping from lots of rocks and cracks and streams are still flowing really well. Higher up, what I think is called skyrockets had a really nice floral smell. Something I've never smelled before. With the humidity it was quite potent.

I will say that despite now being 13 and 14 years older then the last time I was up here in summer conditions, I moved much faster because of the light day pack. I arrived at upper boy scout lake in about 2 and 1/2 hours and iceberg lake an hour later. Not bad for starting just before 7:00 a.m. It really is nice not to have a heavy backpack.

Unfortunately, the summit was not really that enjoyable because by that point we were in survival mode. There was basically no view to be enjoyed, and I was more concerned about being hit by lightning if we left the shelter. Brian was concerned about his hypothermia. Fortunately, Mike and I were not dealing with that, but everyone was cold.

We knew we were going to get done late and we forced ourselves to leave between about 5:00 and 5:15 p.m. We were able to hike to the bottom of the 99 switchbacks before it got dark but from Trail camp to the trailhead it was slow going by headlamp. And a wonderful 1:00 a.m. finish. Precious memories formed!

Sky Rockets smelled really nice.
60 mi • 20,000 ft aeg
North-lake to South-lake loop
Wow this is an amazing loop in the Sierra's ! I haven't posted some of my latest hikes but had to do this one before too long.
This is a 60 mile near-loop hike going up and down 3 passes for a total of 20k up and down and top elevation at ~ 12k, low at 8k.
So it was up out of tree line then back down to the trees. Lakes and streams and flowers everywhere ! Stunning views of the peaks every day. Scenic meadows, one with a coyote. The trail is very clear yet can be quite rocky at times, hit a small amount snow near Muir Pass. Alot of people out there as part of the loop is on the popular John Muir / PCT trail. Incredibly I met an AZ trail hiker I met in Feb by Muir Pass on this trip ! His nickname is "Cheezit". At a stream crossing I fell face first but was ok ! My gps went flying into the stream, lost ! Next time it's getting tied down ! Its terrifying falling out there, but that's what makes it exciting ! Its a bit hard going up to 11k+ , mostly tiring but you get used to it and now that Im back home I feel very strong on hills. Alot of trout fishers , most lakes have trout. Actually saw some rangers ! Ok Ill post some more AZ trips, headed to Yosemite in Sept, Grand Canyon November , AZ trail anytime ! The best site that describes this hike can be found here ... -overview/

197 mi • 40,521 ft aeg
John Muir Trail
We played the JMT permit lottery and were fortunate enough to snag a permit for seven, starting at Lyell Canyon in Tuolumne Meadows, and exiting at Whitney Portal.

We had great weather the whole trip. Temps were nice most of the time and the skies were almost always clear. We had no storms to deal with.

Mileages and AEG were calculated by the FarOut app (formerly Guthooks), John Muir Trail, configured for southbound travel.

June 29th, we started our adventure early, driving first to Whitney Portal and dropping vehicles off there, then heading to Lee Vining where we spent the night. Two were able to just make it to the permit office in Tuolumne Meadows to get the permit so we could get an early start the next day.

Day 1, June 30: (23.5 to 43.9) 20.4 miles, 3481' AEG
Another early morning and we were able to get on trail around 6 at Tuolumne Meadows. It was brisk to start. We met several north bound PCTrs throughout the day. Though I didn't count, they seemed to be a lot more women than men. We climbed Donohue Pass, then waited for everyone to catch up. And waited, and waited. One never showed. We went back down a ways, and got a message from some hiker that the man we were waiting for turned around. We continued on. I thought the plan was to camp on Island Pass, so another and I stopped to wait for the last two. Two were ahead. when the two behind caught up and reached a campsite, they said they had enough and stopped. Another and I continued to relay the information with the lead two. The four of us ended up camping at Emerald Lake. Not a great way to start the trek. All the mosquitos at our campsite didn't help either.

Day 2, July 1: (43.9 to 62.1) 18.8 miles, 3304' AEG | 39.2, 85, 6785'
My sleeping pad leaked all night. I inflated it several times. Amazingly, in the morning, I was able to find the hole and patch it. It was fine the rest of the trip. We had a lazy morning as we were waiting for the other two to catch up. They did, and everyone was happy. We found a couple of geocaches that we passed by, one was at Garnet Lake and the other was near Shadow Lake. After that, we climbed up to Rosalie Lake. Around there, the two that camped on Island Pass, decided that they were going to camp earlier today (mile 55.5) and bail at Reds Meadow tomorrow. One of them was saying he never intended to finish. Mismatched expectations I guess. The four of us that were left, continued to Reds Meadow where we had some food and met the one who bailed the day before. His wife and daughter were meeting him at Mammoth Lakes where they were going to spend a couple days. After Reds Meadow, we continued a few more miles and camped at Crater Creek. Again, we met several nobo PCTrs.

Day 3, July 2: (62.1 to 80.0) 17.9 miles, 4173' AEG | 57.1, 10,958
As the first two days, we met several nobo PCTrs. As I was passing a group of four of them, one looked really familiar. She was looking at me funny too. It turns out we met on the PCT in 2018. She's a Kiwi and her trail name is Heaps and her Insta is @wilderbound. She's out hiking it again, for her 3rd time. We talked for several minutes which was really fun. I love the view from Virginia Lake and was excited to see it again. After that, there was a large descent to a creek where we stopped for awhile. From there we descended a bit more before starting the last ascent for the day. I left my hiking poles back at the creek and had to backtrack 3/4 of a mile or so to get them. That was a pain. We ascended up to Squaw Lake were we spent the night. It was windy all night but there weren't any bugs to worry about.

Day 4, July 3: (80.0 - 98.1) 18.1 miles, 3507' AEG | 75.2, 14,465'
From Squaw Lake, we climbed over Silver Pass, then worked our way down. It's a long and at times, steep descent. After most of the descent, I met Kyle O'Grady and his hiking partner Flossy. They're nobo on the PCT. Kyle has a podcast, Trail Tales Pod, that I've been on twice (episodes 14 & 114). He also has the YouTube channel, Kyle Hates Hiking. It was fun to meet Kyle in person. Even farther down, near the bottom of the descent, a man passed and said, "Russell in the Bush." That's my YouTube channel and he actually recognized me after following my daily Vlog of the PCT in 2018. We ended up camping where the trail crosses Bear Creek.

Day 5, July 4: (98.1-111.7) 14 miles, 2198' AEG | 89.2, 16,663'
The first order of business was crossing Bear Creek. Beer Creek can be perilous during the melt, but it was not an issue for us. I crossed barefoot easily enough. The second order of business was ascending to Selden Pass. Before the last push, I took a dip in Lake Marie to rinse off. That was cold but refreshing. After Selden Pass, there's a big descent where we detoured to Muir Trail Ranch to resupply. For Independence Day, MTR was serving complimentary burgers and cokes. That was really nice surprise! After getting our resupply all sorted out, including figuring out what to do with the resupply for the three others, we went to the nearby hot spring to relax for a bit. You need to cross the S Fork of the San Joaquin river to get there. It's a fairly wide crossing but wasn't deep or swift and I went barefoot. From there, we went a few more miles down the trail and camped a bit past where the trail crosses Piute Creek. For 4th of July, we had a dance party at camp which entailed a small string of flashing lights and music from a phone. One of our party developed a shin splint on the descent to MTR. MTR had a scale for weighing your pack. After resupply, mine weighed about 32lb with a liter of water.

Day 6, July 5: (111.7-125.2) 13.5 miles, 3327' AEG | 102.7, 19,990'
I Felt tired today, maybe because of yesterday's resupply and a heavier pack. We climbed up to the Evolution Valley. Crossing Evolution Creek was easy. Again, I went barefoot. There was lots of bugs so we put on bug spray and our headnets waiting for everyone to regroup. We went slow, lots of fishing. We stopped at Evolution Lake and went for a quick swim. We Camped near the outflow of Lake Saphire. I decided to cowboy camp. I also decided that after six days, it was time for a clean pair of socks.

Day 7, July 6: (125.2-144.5) 19.2 miles, 2188' AEG | 121.9, 22,178'
I rinsed my dirty pair of socks out in Lake Saphire's outflow. Thankfully, the water wasn't too cold. We went over Muir Pass today. The climb wasn't that bad from Lake Saphire and there wasn't much snow at all to deal with. There really wasn't any snow at the pass. Long descent to Palisade Creek and Le Conte Canyon. We stopped and took pictures at Monster Rock. The day ended as a trudge along Palisade Creek and we camped a bit below the Golden Staircase, setting up to climb it and Mather pass in the morning.

Day 8, July 7: (144.5-159.2) 14.7 miles, 4380' AEG | 136.6, 26,558'
Climbing Mather Pass was a tough way to start the day. The climbe was split in two, first up the Golden Staircase, which is a nice bit of trail construction, then past Palisade Lake and then the final push over the pass. The descent is steep to start out but then is a more level trail down to the S Fork of the Kings River. The water was low enough that it was a fairly simple rock hop across. From there there was a tiring climb up to Lake Marjorie, where we found a nice campsite near its outlet. The lake was deeper and colder than others and the fish were stunted with big heads and small bodies. A ranger stopped by and checked our permit.

Day 9, July 8: (159.2-179.5) 20.3 miles, 4672' AEG | 156.9, 31,230'
The day started climbing Pinchot Pass, the highest for us to date. We were on the pass within two miles from camp. Then we descended down to the suspension bridge over Woods Creek. The plan was to camp at Rae Lakes but there were murmers of going over Glenn Pass instead. The climb up to Rae Lakes was warm and seemed never ending. A boy scout troop passed us the other direction. They were doing the Rae Lakes Loop. I talked to the two adults for a bit. I stopped to get water and there was a rainbow in some clouds. The clouds below looked all roilly. It was very strange, I'd never seen anything like it before. Now I think it had something to do with the Washburn fire in Yosemite, but that's just a guess. I got to Rae Lakes and the decision was made to go over Glenn Pass and camp near the Kearsarge Pass trail junction. I hadn't been eating for that, so started a Clif Bar; they look just like bear poop. I made it over Glenn Pass and worked my way down to the last water before camp, where two of the others were waiting. The one that had a shin splint was really hurting. His knees were bothering him too. I let him use my poles the rest of the way to camp (I only use them on uphills and creek crossings anyway), which helped his balance. He was really despondent. I think two passes was too much. I know I was pretty shattered by the time we reached camp.

Day 10, July 9: (179.5-199.8 ) 20.3 miles, 4695' AEG | 177.2, 35,925'
Our injured party felt it best to exit Kearsarge as he was worried about being able to descend off Whitney. That was probably a good call, but it was sad to see him go. Now there were three of us, though we picked up another man way back on day 3. Today's mission was to go over Forester Pass, though it started out with a nice descent before reaching Bubb's Creek where we started climbing. This part of the trail is very pretty and the climb is gentle enough. Finally, the push over Forester came in earnest. Forester is the final pass before Whitney and is the highest at 13,200'. There was no snow to worry about at all. Quite the difference from when I was last here. At the pass, I was eating Fritos, and a marmot was scheming to get some for itself. On the southside, the infamous snow chute was non-existent. At the base of the pass, I stopped for water and ate some before continuing. From there, the descent to Tyndall creek is good tread and easy walking. We made good time. We were going to camp at Tyndall Creek but decided the next day would be super short staging for the climb up Whitney, so we continued on about a mile past Wallace Creek where we were about ten miles from the Whitney summit.

Day 11, July 10: (199.8-210.4-Whitney Portal) 19.8 miles, 4596' AEG | 197.0, 40,521
We got an early rise to be on trail early as we wanted to get to beer at Whitney Portal. We also wanted to be able to poop enough where we wouldn't need to use the wag bags we'd been carrying this whole trip. We made it to the Crabtree Meadows turn off when the climbing really starts. It was nice and brisk in the morning and didn't warm as we climbed. At the Guitar Lake inflow, we stopped for water as there was no more until the other side of Whitney. I took two liters. Just after Guitar Lake the climbing really begins. It was in the shade and cold, I really wanted to reach the sun, but was always just ahead of it. At trail junction, two miles from the summit, I stopped to eat some, then continued. I hoped to summit by 11, but missed by five minutes or so. It was calm and really nice on the summit. I put on my windjacket and was very comfortable. There were lots of people on the summit. I didn't stay at the summit very long, maybe 20 minutes before heading down. I wasn't expecting the climb from trail junction along the Whitney trail. After that, it was a never ending set of switchbacks down. All exposed and it was getting warmer the lower we got. The trail has no flow to it and it was very difficult walking. The heat didn't help. I think the four miles from the descent were the toughest of the trail. Finally, with about three miles left to portal, the tread improved and I could walk normally again. I made it to the Whitney Portal about 5pm. Burgers and beer awaited.
21.4 mi • 6,700 ft aeg
We did the three-day, two-night version and had an amazing time. Our group consisted of eleven men from the Phoenix area, and we saw smoky skies due to wildfires as early as Palm Springs. Tuesday we camped at Lone Pine Campground at the foot of the canyon, and there we first (and last!) smelled the smoke.

Wednesday morning we drove up to Whitney Portal and hit the trail at 8360'. We had access to water all day in the lakes and whenever we came near Lone Pine Creek, so everyone had filters, tablets, etc. We passed Lone Pine Lake, Bighorn Park and Outpost Camp, Mirror Lake, and by about 4 or 5 we were all at or near Trail Camp at about 11,900', and we camped there. There we were above the level of the smoke and haze. None of us slept much or very well that night, presumably due to altitude, but that was about the worst of the altitude's effects on our group.

Thursday we took day packs and all the water we could carry and hit the 99 switchbacks that go up a very steep slope to Trail Crest at 13,600'. At that point we crossed the ridgeline and entered Sequoia National Park. The Mt. Whitney Trail descends for half a mile to its terminus at the John Muir Trail. To the left the JMT drops down thousands of feet and goes eventually all the way to Yosemite. Continuing straight is also considered the John Muir Trail, which ends at the summit. After that bit the trail stays on the west side of the ridge all the way to the top, but it stays high enough to look eastward out many of the "windows" between the giant needles on the ridge. We made it to the summit and had surprisingly robust cell service, enough for video calls. The views were unreal, and still clear of haze in most directions at our height, but the valley floors to the east were mostly obscured. To the SW we could see the source of the haze wall to the south. As we descended to Trail Crest the view to the west became increasingly obscured by the haze. Some of our group got down earlier and had headed down to Outpost Camp at 10,400'. The rest of us got down to our campsite in time for dinner. Afterwards my brother and I decided to break camp and hike 3 miles or so down to Outpost Camp. We stuck with night vision as long as we possibly could, but the last half of that hike was in the dark with headlamps. Both of us slept much better in Outpost Camp.

In the morning we watched the very relaxed deer in our camp until the Trail Camp crew came down to join us. We checked out the stunning waterfall to the south and headed out.

The other hikers we encountered on Mt. Whitney have the best trail etiquette I've seen in a long time. We enjoyed hearing conditions reports from those coming down as we ascended, and we enjoyed giving our report to those coming up as we descended. For example, we heard a ton about really bad winds at Trail Camp the night before we got up there, then had a perfectly still night (though still didn't sleep). We met many people who were finishing 1-3 weeks along the John Muir Trail or High Sierra Trail. One woman was asked what she would drink first when she got out of the mountains. Her reply made us all laugh: "A milkshake!"

We used the bear canisters that we picked up at the Interagency Visitors Center, but never saw a single bear or marmot. We did see a pika, lots of birds, and at least half a dozen deer. The trees at Outpost Camp had a uniform maximum height limit, as if someone had mowed them. The trees gave out entirely at about 11,000', though we had flowering plants along the trail well above 14,000'.

After we got down the mountain back into Lone Pine, ate lunch, and returned our bear canisters, we drove into Death Valley, reaching Badwater, the lowest point in the US, 26 hours after being at the highest point in the contiguous US. It was a great trip!

Some yellow dandelion-like flowers were blooming here and there on the highest plants we saw, above 14,000'.
212 mi • 46,000 ft aeg
John Muir Trail
Hiked the John Muir Trail, heading southbound, from Tuolumne Meadows to Whitney Portal. Including a climb over Kearsarge Pass for resupply, the total distance was apx. 212 miles. I went solo, but can't really say that I was alone. I met a lot of cool people on the trail.

The smoke from the Ferguson fire was somewhat of an issue, but not enough to really affect progress on the trail. You will notice the smoke in some of the pictures. Once I got south of Vermillion Valley Resort, it was pretty much completely clear.

One of the aforementioned cool people was a gentleman from Cave Creek. It was great to meet someone who was familiar with our local trails. We talked about how important a resource HAZ is for us AZ residents.

It was a great experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who can free up a few weeks.

30.5 mi • 10,759 ft aeg
Mount Williamson had been on my radar for some time. Driving down Highway 395, it's impossible to miss. Sure, Whitney is taller, but this one always just looked more fun - and stately! I also knew that there was a popular sense of dread around this one, largely because of its approach on the Shepherds Pass Trail. It's rare to find a 14er to climb that asks you to cover 10,000'+ of gain by its standard route - and that includes some scrambling (albeit brief). Suffice it to say, the allure became stronger the more I read about it.

I also realized how much more fun one of these efforts is when you get the right crew together. And we really did have a great group for this one. In the end, I convinced (suckered) Chumley, Taylor, Sam, and also my friend and trusty big mountain partner Shawn from Colorado to join. He invited his fellow Denver(-ite?) Joe, who'd climbed Orizaba with us this past January. I never thought 5 others would be down for this 3 day adventure, but there we were, permits in hand and packs up on Friday morning ready to go.

The first mile of the trail stays in the canyon, and is a bit overgrown. It got me worried about the switchbacks above I knew were to come, and the condition of the trail there. Those worries evaporated, though, the moment we left the 4th creek crossing and started up the hill. The Shepherds Pass Trail is in great shape, and it felt like we were cruising up to the Symmes Creak saddle. Everyone felt great after that first 2700' push, and there was even excited chatter there among the group about maybe pushing above our planned Anvil Camp. The drop to water near Mahogany Flat and the abrupt restart quelled that chatter, and we were all happy and ready to see camp, especially since minutes after everything was set up, the sky opened up. A gentle but annoying rain full most of the afternoon. Anvil really is about the only shady, tree-covered spot on the route, so it makes sense to take advantage of it.

Up for an alpine start and on the trail at 4 a.m. under nice conditions, we strung out a bit as everyone settled into their pace. The nice trail helped progress up to Shepherds Pass, where we enjoyed sunrise. Regrouping after some scree-slogging, we enjoyed some relative flat as we all eyed the route up Tyndall en route to the Williamson Bowl. I'm always struck by the contrast of the slope on the Sierra Crest: rugged and sharp to the east, gentler to the west, at least from what I've seen so far. Williamson Bowl was great from a scenery standpoint, but you have to carefully pick your way through the boulders. Again, I'd heard a lot of belly-aching about this stretch prior to the trip, but honestly, it's not bad. The boulders are mostly solid, and it's generally clear where to go. At the base of the gully, Chums and Joe couldn't contain their excitement and busted up, while the other four of us settled into a nice pace and steadily made our way up. We nervously watched the clouds start to build near 8 am (what is this - Colorado???), but knew we'd be able to get up and down before the light show started.

Sam and Shawn pulled ahead of Tay and I a bit as we neared the much-talked-about chimney. We watched them - well, Shawn - start up the wrong way, but eventually get into the crack system and make his way up. Tay and I followed behind, and we popped out to an amazing view of the summit plateau and the Owens Valley, greeted by the already-summited Chumley, who had eschewed his summit beer for a photo op and was hauling it back to camp. We passed Joe coming down as we headed up, and had sweet summit success with cloud views. Last of the top 10 US 14ers done for Shawn and I! The weather made it so we couldn't stay long, and down the chute we went. Shawn and Sam moved ahead again, but waited for Tay and I at a prime lakeside lunch/nap spot. The rains chased away our laziness and made us leave Williamson Bowl with some urgency as we watched Mt. Williamson get enveloped in dark clouds. Good timing on our part. The trip back to our temporary Anvil home was smooth and everyone was all smiles around camp. Jack and Captain were passed around and it was great to see everyone laughing and smiling after the big day. Sure, there were some expletives hurled my way throughout the day, but what's a good trip without that?

The way home on the final day was fast, and the weekend was over before we knew it. The climb back up the Symmes Saddle wasn't too bad, but good thing we started early as hiding from the sun isn't easy there. We even had a well-timed 9L cameo at the saddle! It was great to see him and hike the last few miles back together. Joe went back up to get Tyndall that morning, so didn't join our hike out or parking lot celebration. The AZ group took off to start their long drive home after a good amount of hanging out, and Joe was only about 45 minutes behind from when they left. For the three of us, it was back to Reno, cold beers, and thoughts of what to do next, although we had to dodge some pretty impressive thunderstorms on the way home. Thanks to all of you guys for making it happen - great trip!
172 mi • 31,180 ft aeg
Onion Valley to Happy Isles
This was my solo northbound journey from Onion Valley to Mammoth Lakes, CA and then from Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles northern in Yosemite Valley to complete my final 160 miles of the John Muir Trail. I hiked for 172 total miles over 14 days which included the entrance in from Onion Valley, 8 alpine passes, and some side trail mileage done at Muir Trail Ranch, Red's Meadow, Devil's Postpile, and Tuolumne Meadows.

The original plan was to hike for 18 days straight, meeting up with a friend on day 11 who would join me for the last 7 days. Part of that final week would be spent covering 4 days of trail that I had already completed back in 2015. When my friend had to cancel after I was already on the trail, I chose to take 4 zero days in Mammoth Lakes to heal my feet and enjoy some luxuries. I reconvened with the JMT for the final 3 days of trail that I had yet to complete, making this a 2-section adventure all in one trip to close the gaps of the remaining miles of this amazing trail.
20.84 mi • 7,162 ft aeg
With Kilimanjaro coming in a few short weeks I really needed to get some more mental prep work done. Whitney is something that is great at being a test of your mental mettle.

On the journey out we stayed in Anaheim for a couple days prior to visit some friends. I really didn’t think much about it until the drive to Lone Pine when I was thinking about the ocean. And now the first doubts started to creep in. I had been scouring the various message boards and groups to get as much info about the trail conditions for several weeks. WIth the record snow in the Sierra’s now melting, that alone had planted the seed of doubt into my mind.

I started up the trail around 1:30AM. Instantly I had to backtrack as I left my camera back in the car. I snatched that and started to head back up again. A few minutes later I noticed that my backside was wet. My Camelbak was leaking. It was a good thing I was dropped off at the trailhead otherwise I might have packed it in. (Ok, not really) Turns out, I think at least, the connection with the tube and bladder came loose. All I know is that it didn’t present any issues for the rest of the day.

With the amount of snow the mountains received this winter the stream crossings were going to be their own mini games. The first crossing was crazy! It was pretty unsettling starting across a stream and not being able to see the bottom, nor the other side, due to the darkness. The really creepy part is the sound. It sounds angry, powerful, and downright hateful. One mistake and it is ready to send you rushing down, down, down.

I was shocked that I passed two separate groups on their way down. I made small talk with the first group, about trail conditions and the alpine start; but the second group was an Asian collection who didn’t say much.

The log bridge crossing was hairy. One of the logs broke and is angled weirdly, necessitating a leap. The water underneath the logs (just barely) is rushing by in a low rumble as well.

I had read that the snow abruptly starts right past Lone Pine lake and that was spot on. The sign stating that you need a permit to proceed was buried. I grew up on the east coast, in the lake effect snow belt of upstate NY, but was still in awe. The snow, at times, caused the trail to disappear into the night. It made for quite an ordeal in trying to follow it. There is quite a well trodden path in the snow but it can easily be missed in a few spots that transition from dirt to snow.

The waterfall by Outpost Camp was monstrous. The sound literally shook the ground as you ascended around it. I was making decent time at this point. I took the approach of just going but not overly fast. I wanted to try to maintain a decent clip but able to breath and talk.

Approaching Trailside Meadow the trail is submerged under ankle deep water for the majority of it, with some points being at mid-calf. Thankfully the gore-tex boots I have, along with the gaiters, kept my feet dry throughout this trip.
Much of the route past this point is directly over snowfields. This presented a whole new set of issues. The day before I read a triplog about how a guy fell through into waist deep water. Well, with that vision in my mind I stumbled upon the first of many cavities in the snow fields that harbored raging water. Now, not only would a spill into one of these end your summit attempt it very well could end you. If you were sucked down under the snow I can’t imagine any sort of positive outcome to that situation.

I reached Trail Camp a little before sunrise. I strapped on my crampons, pulled out my axe, and started weaving my way up the chute. The sunrise was breathtaking; just like the climb. The snow was crisp and firm making the traction easy to be had. Oxygen was the rare commodity and I fell into a routine of a few steps followed by a rest period and a few breaths. The chute took forever and a day. I managed to catch up to a couple groups, who had mercilessly been sending chunks of snow down on me throughout, right near the top. We chatted a bit about the conditions and then parted ways.

From Trail Crest to the summit the trail is basically clear. I really had to mentally force myself through this section. The altitude hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t in a headache or nausea kind of way; just in a way that sapped all energy and desire to continue. This is what I came for, although I didn’t want to deal with it. I just focused on the summit hut. I went when I could, I stopped when I had to. It was slow going, but eventually I reached the base of the plateau. Typically, the main trail sweeps around the western side of the plateau but with the snow the chosen way was climbing the boulder field of the southern face (I hope my sense of direction is accurate).

The summit hut had its door blown off this winter. Inside, from the ground to the roof, was snow. I am pretty amazed that a couple people were able to survive in there, overnight, a few weeks back.

I made it back down to Trail Crest and had a decision to make; either glissade down the chute or plunge step. I decided to plunge step to play it safe. It is remarkable how fast the descent is compared to the ascent.

Upon reaching Trail Camp I ran out of water. I had brought up a full Camelbak of 100oz. I pulled up the lake and got out my filter. Turns out (and I should have tested this beforehand) that my filter was busted. So I was left with either no water or drinking unfiltered water. I chose the unfiltered water approach on the assumption that I could make 6 miles before my intestines exploded. With all the water out there I figured my odds were good. Going on a day and a half later and my stomach still doesn’t hate me.

Just below Trail Camp I bumped into a solo SAR member from Inyo County SAR. We chatted for a good amount of time about what I saw, how far I made it, my gear, etc. Apparently with all of the tragedies that have already transpired this year on Whitney they are out trying to do preventative work.
The stream crossings that were troublesome in the early morning hours were downright terrifying during the midday melt period. Thankfully I made it through them all but I am not so sure it isn’t just dumb luck.

Overall, my 4th ascent of Whitney was my most challenging to date. The conditions out there were no joke, but more importantly, the mental aspect of it was tough. It is really easy to keep going when it is a new peak, trail, etc; but when it is something you’ve seen before, it can become easy to throw in the towel when the going gets tough. The lessons and experience garnered from this adventure will last me a lifetime.
51.4 mi • 13,045 ft aeg
Onion Valley to Whitney Portal
A little voyage my wife and I took southbound from Onion Valley to the summit of Mt. Whitney in California. 48 total miles covered, most of that following the John Muir Trail to its southern terminus.

This was the second southbound journey for my wife and I, traveling from Onion Valley to Whitney Portal, conquering the southern end of the John Muir Trail at the top of Mt. Whitney. We hiked for 48 total miles over 6 days which included the entrance in from Onion Valley, Kearsarge Pass, Forester Pass, summiting Mt. Whitney, and also the exit to Whitney Portal.

This was our second thru-hike of the JMT.
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90+° 8am - 6pm kills
Avoid Heat Illness - stay cool

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